5 things you can do to raise more money in the 4th quarter of 2020

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”General George Patton

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Nonprofits are three quarters into calendar year 2020, which is a logical time for reflection, and recalibration as you enter the best four fundraising months of the year.  The August 31st, 2020 3rd quarter review is anything but normal this year.  With the pandemic and resulting business closures and unemployment putting financial pressure on business owners and employees alike, it is an unprecedented time. 

Many nonprofits are experiencing declines in giving related to a few different obstacles:

  • Reduced Tax Incentives for Larger Charitable Contributions
    • Economic downturn related to COVID-19
    • Recent income tax changes (lowering of tax rates on corporations and wealthier people and raising of the standard deduction)
  • 2020 is an Election Year
    • Thousands of candidates are out asking for political contributions. There is much at stake in the races to control the White House and United States Senate, as well as the offices ‘down the party line’ in the states themselves. 
  • Dramatic Shifts in Giving to Address the Pandemic and Race-Related Issues
    • Many large private foundations and corporations and their foundations have shifted their giving to address two big problems:  1) the massive human need associated with the Coronavirus pandemic (and related job losses and business failures) and, 2) the problems associated with systemic racism in our society and in law enforcement and the judicial system.  While these are crucial issues to address, this shift in funding has left other organizations with a real need to fill a fundraising gap.  

There is little doubt that our prospects for significant contributions are being besieged by requests for money from every direction by struggling nonprofits and aspiring politicians.  Truly, prospects cannot give to everything—all at once. 

This tremendous pressure adds to the competitive nature of the quest to secure charitable gifts, especially when there are so many worthy causes.  Many fundraising professionals are asking themselves, “What can we do to compete for funds and to distinguish ourselves?  How can we keep our donors engaged and excited about giving to our organization, especially while we aren’t able to have in person meetings or events?”  There do not seem to be any easy answers. 

Most of us have heard the assertion that “the Chinese word for ‘Crisis’ also means ‘Opportunity.’”  This would be wonderful, were it true.  From Wikipedia: “Sinologist Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania states the popular interpretation of weiji as ‘crisis or danger’ plus ‘opportunity’ is a widespread public misperception in the English-speaking world. The first character wēi (危) does indeed mean ‘dangerous’ or ‘precarious,’ but the second, highly polysemous character jī (机; 機) does not mean ‘opportunity’ in isolation, but something more like ‘change point.’”

If we take the literal meaning of this Corona Virus ‘crisis’ and view it as a ‘change point’ or tipping point we can begin to recalibrate and rethink the things we do and how we do them.  There is almost always a better way or at least another way to accomplish the same task in a different manner, using other techniques. 

In the midst of this terrible pandemic, and all the other challenges mentioned above, the one thing nonprofit leaders cannot afford to do is to hesitate, stop or delay asking their supporters for money and working hard to find more supporters. When people are fearful, they tend to retreat to their office to worry, agonize and delay—excusing themselves as trying to figure out the best way to do it.  If you delay, over-analyze and fail to act quickly, you will be like the farmer who didn’t get his crops in the ground.  You plant nothing, you eat nothing. 

Here are 5 things you can do to give you the best opportunity to raise more money in this turbulent time. 

5 Keys to Raise More Money—Now!

  1. First you must believe it is possible and you need to be confident that you can do it!
  2. You should communicate with your constituents more regularly, and effectively, even though you cannot go see most of them personally. 
    • Call them often on the phone—giving them positive updates and encouraging news about your programs and services.
    • Follow up those intimate phone conversations with a nice handwritten note, thanking them for their time and summarizing the critical points.
    • Create small groups of related constituents with whom you can schedule regular streaming meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meets—so that you continue to build rapport and to remind them that they are part of your team—a winning team.  Create objectives towards which you can work together as a team and keep the meeting flowing by choreographing who should speak next.  If you simply throw out a question, nobody wants to answer for fear of interrupting another or speaking out of turn. Instead, specifically call on someone.  After posing a question or challenge you might say, “Frank, would you please share your thoughts on that?”  You may have noticed how well the news anchors have learned to do this when they are all broadcasting from different locations, and they have several guests to converse with in one segment.

  3. Remain ambitious to do great things!  As programs or services develop where you need funding, make a special Zoom call to request the funds needed from a capable prospect known to have an interest in that area.  

    I recommend you have a brief rehearsal Zoom call if several people are participating in the ask.  Just like a visit in person, practicing beforehand makes your call flow better.  Have all parties present, practice explaining the case carefully and then making the request fluidly.
    • Make the case tightly focused and know the answers to any related questions.
    • Know exactly how much money you are going to request.
    • Know who will make the request so that others can ‘tee it up’ for the solicitor.
    • Be sure to compare calendars with the solicitation team to see when you can schedule a follow-up meeting to field any lingering questions or to remove any concerns. 
    • Thank the donor profusely and send handwritten notes to express your appreciation and perhaps send another letter later to offer updates as to progress, etc.

  4. Spend some time learning more about your supporters and why they are engaged, and how you might get them more interested and involved.  Survey them for their interests, skills and abilities and try to keep them involved in activities where they will feel fulfilled
    • Some may be potentially good board members—and they might enjoy that.
    • Some may have fun introducing you to others and their friends.  Where possible join them at events (where social distancing is practical) and let them introduce you to their friends.  Or, if longstanding small group meetings or social or civic club meetings are being held online, take them as your guest or you go as their guest and allow them to introduce you to others with whom you can begin a correspondence to build a deeper relationship.
    • Some people like to volunteer and help in the office, or at events, or social gatherings (again, when they are practical, social distancing is possible or the pandemic has subsided).  For those who enjoy administrative work, they can help with newsletters, brochures and general correspondence, and communications by setting up the online meetings. 

  5. Become active in other groups that meet online and from which you can build new knowledge and relationships.  If you network with your team, your board members and others, they will be able to suggest small group meetings or public forums where you can both make a difference and find new friends and donors for your agency

Now it’s time to get moving!  Remember, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”